|In the time of the Roman Empire, the region west of the Danube river was known as Pannonia. After the Western Roman Empire collapsed under the stress of the migration of Germanic tribes and Carpian pressure, the Migration Period continued bringing many invaders to Europe. Among the first to arrive were the Huns, who built up a powerful empire under Attila. Attila the Hun in the past centuries was regarded as an ancestral ruler of the Hungarians, this belief however is considered to be erroneous today. It is believed that the origin of the name “Hungary” does not come from the Central Asian nomadic invaders called the Huns, but rather originated from a later, 7th century Bulgar alliance called On-Ogour, which in Old Turkic meant “(the) Ten Arrows”. After Hunnish rule faded, the Germanic Ostrogoths then the Lombards came to Pannonia, and the Gepids had a presence in the eastern part of the Carpathian Basin for about 100 years. In the 560’s the Avars founded the Avar Khaganate , a state which maintained supremacy in the region for more than two centuries and had the military power to launch attacks against all its neighbors. The Avar Khagnate was weakened by constant wars and outside pressure and the Franks under Charlemagne managed to defeat the Avars ending their 250-year rule. Neither the Franks nor others were able to create a lasting state in the region until the freshly unified Hungarians led by Árpád settled in the Carpathian Basin starting in 896. .
Medieval Hungary (896 – 1526)
Main articles: Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages, Doctrine of the Holy Crown, Árpád dynasty, Battle of Mohács, Comitatus (Kingdom of Hungary), Mongol invasion of Europe, Islam in Hungary, History of the Székely people, Battle of Mohi, and John Hunyadi
Medieval Hungary controlled more territory than medieval France, and the population of medieval Hungary was the third largest of any country in Europe. Árpád was the Magyar leader whom sources name as the single leader who unified the Magyar tribes via the Covenant of Blood(Vérszerződés) forged one nation, thereafter known as the Hungarian nation and led the new nation to the territory of the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century. After an early Hungarian state was formed in this territory military power of the nation allowed the Hungarians to conduct fierce campaigns and raids as far as present-day Spain. A later defeat at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955 signaled an end to raids on foreign territories, and links between the tribes weakened. The ruling prince (fejedelem) Géza of the House of Árpád, who was the ruler of only some of theunity territory, but the nominal overlord of all seven Magyar tribes, intended to integrate Hungary into Christian (Western) Europe, rebuilding the state according to the Western political and social model. He established a dynasty by naming his son Vajk (later called Stephen) as his successor. This was contrary to the then dominant tradition of the succession of the eldest surviving member of the ruling family. Hungary was established as a Christian kingdom under Stephen I of Hungary, who was crowned in December 1000 AD in the capital, Esztergom. He was the son of Géza and thus a descendant of Árpád. By 1006, Stephen had solidified his power, eliminating all rivals who either wanted to follow the old pagan traditions or wanted an alliance with the orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire. Then he started sweeping reforms to convert Hungary into a feudal state, complete with forced Christianity. What emerged was a strong kingdom that withstood attacks from German kings and Emperors, and nomadic tribes following the Hungarians from the East, integrating some of the latter into the population (along with Germans invited to Transylvania and present-day Slovakia, especially after 1242), and subjugating Croatia in 1102.
In 1241-1242, this kingdom received a major blow in the form of the Mongol invasion of Europe: after the defeat of the Hungarian army in the Battle of Muhi, King Béla IV fled, and a large part (though not as great as suspected by historians earlier) of the population died (leading later to the invitation of settlers from neighbours in the West and South) in the ensuing destruction (Tatárjárás). Only strongly fortified cities and abbeys could withstand the assault. As a consequence, after the Mongols retreated, King Béla ordered the construction of stone castles, meant to be defense against a possible second Mongol invasion. These castles proved to be very important later in the long struggle with the Ottoman Empire in the following centuries (from the late 14th century onward), but their cost indebted the King to the major feudal landlords again, so the royal power reclaimed by Béla IV after his father King András II weakened it (leading to the issue of the so-called ‘Arany Bulla’ or Golden Bull, in 1222), was lost again.
Árpád’s direct descendants in the male line ruled the country until 1301. During the reigns of the Kings after the house of Árpád, the Kingdom of Hungary reached its greatest extent, yet royal power was weakened as the major landlords greatly increased their influence. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turks confronted the country ever more often. The second Hungarian king in the ‘Anjou’ Angevin line also descendant of Árpád on the female line, Louis I the Great (I. or Nagy Lajos, king 1342-1382) extended his rule over territories from the Black Sea to the Adriatic Sea, and temporarily occupied the Kingdom of Naples (after his brother was murdered there by his wife, who was also his cousin). From 1370, the death of Casimir III the Great, he was also king of Poland. The alliance between Casimir and Charles I of Hungary, the father of Louis, was the start of a still lasting Polish-Hungarian friendship. Sigismund, a prince from the Luxembourg line succeeded to the throne by marrying Louis’s daughter, Queen Mary. In 1433 he even became Holy Roman Emperor.
The last strong king was the renaissance king Matthias Corvinus. He was the son of the feudal landlord and warlord John Hunyadi, who led the Hungarian troops in the 1456 Siege of Nándorfehérvár. Building on his fathers’ vision, the aim of taking on the Ottoman Empire with a strong enough background, Matthias set out to build a great empire, expanding southward and northwest, while he also implemented internal reforms. His army called the ‘Fekete Sereg’ (Black Army) accomplished a series of victories also capturing the city of Vienna in 1485. In 1514, the weakened King faced a major peasant rebellion led by György Dózsa, which was crushed barbarously by the nobles mainly by János Szapolyai. As central rule degenerated, the stage was set for a defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In 1521, the strongest Hungarian fortress in the South Nándorfehérvár (modern Belgrade) fell to the Turks, and in 1526, the Hungarian army was destroyed in the Battle of Mohács.
Through the centuries the Kingdom of Hungary kept its old “constitution”, which granted special “freedoms” or rights to the nobility and groups like the Saxons resident in Hungary or the Jassic people, and to free royal towns such as Buda, Kassa (Košice), Pozsony (Bratislava), Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca).
Ottoman occupation 1526-1699
After some 150 years of wars with the Ottoman Empire in the south, the Turks conquered parts of Hungary, and continued their expansion until 1556. The Ottomans gained their first decisive victory over the Hungarian army at the Battle of Mohács in 1526. The next decades were characterized by political chaos; the divided Hungarian nobility elected two kings simultaneously, ‘Szapolyai János’ (1526-1540) and Ferdinand Habsburg (1527-1540), whose armed conflicts weakened the country further. With the conquest of Buda in 1541 by the Turks, Hungary fell into three parts. The north-western part see map) termed as Royal Hungary remained under the Habsburgs who ruled as Kings of Hungary. The eastern part of the kingdom (Partium and Transylvania), in turn, became independent as the Principality of Transylvania,often under Turkish influence. The remaining central area (mostly present-day Hungary), including the capital of Buda was known as Ottoman Hungary. A large part of the area became devastated by permanent warfare. Most smaller settlements disappeared. The Turks were indifferent to the type of Christian religion of their subjects and the Habsburg counter-reformation measures could not reach this area. As a result, the majority of the population of the area became Protestant (Calvinist). In 1686, Austria-led Christian forces reconquered Buda, and in the next few years, all of the country except areas near Temesvár. In the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz these changes were officially recognized, and in 1718 the entire Kingdom of Hungary was restored from the Ottomans.
Pozsony (Bratislava) became the new capital (1536-1784), coronation town (1563-1830) and seat of the Diet (1536-1848) of Hungary. Nagyszombat(Trnava) in turn, became the religious center in 1541. Parallelly, between 1604 and 1711, there was a series of anti-Habsburg (i.e. anti-Austrian) and anti-Catholic (requiring equal rights and freedom for all Christian religions) uprisings, which – with the exception of the last one – took place in Royal Hungary. The uprisings were usually organized from Transylvania. The last one was an uprising led by ‘II. Rákóczi Ferenc’, who after the dethronement of the Habsburgs in 1707 at the Diet of Ónód took power as the “Ruling Prince” of Hungary. When Austrians defeated the uprising in 1711, Rákóczi was in Poland. He later fled to France, finally Turkey, and lived to the end of his life (1735) in nearby Rodosto. Afterwards, to make further armed resistance impossible, the Austrians blew up some castles (most of the castles on the border between the now-reclaimed territories occupied earlier by the Ottomans and Royal Hungary), and allowed peasants to use the stones from most of the others as building material (the végvárs among them).
History of Hungary 1700-1918
During the Napoleonic Wars and afterwards, the Hungarian Diet had not convened for decades. In the 1820’s, the Emperor was forced to convene the Diet, and thus a Reform Period began. Nevertheless, its progress was slow, because the nobles insisted on retaining their privileges (no taxation, exclusive voting rights, etc.). Therefore the achievements were mostly of national character (e.g. introduction of Hungarian as the official language of the country, instead of the former Latin).
On March 15, 1848, mass demonstrations in Pest and Buda enabled Hungarian reformists to push through a list of 12 demands. Faced with revolution both at home and in Vienna, Austria first had to accept Hungarian demands. Later, under governor Lajos Kossuth and the first Prime minister, Lajos Batthyány, the House of Habsburg was dethroned and the form of government was changed to create the first Republic of Hungary. After the Austrian revolution was suppressed, Franz Joseph replaced his mentally retarded uncle Ferdinand I as Emperor. The Habsburg Ruler and his advisers skillfully manipulated the Croatian, Serbian and Romanian peasantry, led by priests and officers firmly loyal to the Habsburgs, and induced them to rebel against the Hungarian government. The Hungarians were supported by the vast majority of the Slovak, German and Rusyn nationalities and by all the Jews of the kingdom, as well as by a large number of Polish, Austrian and Italian volunteers.  Some members of the nationalities gained coveted positions within the Hungarian Army, like General János Damjanich, an ethnic Serb who became a Hungarian national hero through his command of the 3rd Hungarian Army Corps. Initially, the Hungarian forces (Honvédség) defeated Austrian armies. To counter the successes of the Hungarian revolutionary army, Franz Joseph asked for help from the “Gendarme of Europe,” Czar Nicholas I, whose Russian armies invaded Hungary. The huge army of the Russian Empire and the remnants of the Austrian forces proved too powerful for the Hungarian army, and General Artúr Görgey surrendered in August 1849. Julius Freiherr von Haynau, the leader of the Austrian army, then became governor of Hungary for a few months and on October 6, ordered the execution of 13 leaders of the Hungarian army as well as Prime Minister Batthyány. Lajos Kossuth escaped into exile.
Following the war of 1848-49, the whole country was in “passive resistance”. Archduke Albrecht von Habsburg was appointed governor of the Kingdom of Hungary, and this time was remembered for Germanization pursued with the help of Czech officers.
Due to external and internal problems, reforms seemed inevitable to secure the integrity of the Habsburg Empire. Major military defeats, like the Battle of Königgrätz (1866), forced the Emperor to concede internal reforms. To appease Hungarian separatism, the Emperor made a deal with the Hungary, negotiated by Ferenc Deák, called the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, by which the dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary came into existence. The two countries were governed separately with a common ruler and common foreign and military policies. The first prime minister of the Hungary after the Compromise was Count Gyula Andrássy. The Hungarian Constitution was restored, and Franz Joseph was crowned as King of Hungary. The era witnessed an impressive economic development. The formerly backward Hungarian economy become a relatively modern and industrialized by the turn of the century, although agriculture remained fairly dominant. Many of the state institutions and the administrative system of Hungary were established during this period. The census in 1910 (excluding Croatia), recorded the following distribution of population Hungarian 54.5% Romanian 16.1%, Slovak 10.7%, and German 10.4%.The largest religious denomination was the Roman Catholic (49.3%), followed by the Calvinist (14.3%), Greek Orthodox (12.8%), Greek Catholic (11.0%), Lutheran (7.1%), and Jewish (5.0%) religions. In 1910, 6.37% of the population were eligible to vote in elections due to census.
In First World War Austria-Hungary was fighting on the side of Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey . With great difficulty, the Central Powers, as they were called, conquered Serbia and Romania but could not make significant progress against Italy. By 1918, the economic situation has deteriorated, uprisings in the army became commonplace, Entente troops landed in Greece and the personal union with Austria was dissolved in October 1918.
Between the two world wars (1918-1941)
Main articles: Hungarian Soviet Republic and Hungarian Communist Party, Béla Kun, Hungarian Revolutionary War, Conflict between Charles IV of Hungary and Miklós Horthy, Hungary between the two world wars, Hungarian interwar economy, First Vienna Award, and Second Vienna Award
In 1918, as a result of defeat in World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy collapsed. On October 31, 1918, the success of the Aster Revolution in Budapest brought the liberal count Mihály Károlyi to power as Prime-Minister. By February 1919 the government had lost all popular support, having failed on the domestic and military fronts. On March 21, after the Entente military representative demanded more territorial concessions from Hungary, Károlyi resigned. The Communist Party of Hungary came to power, led by Béla Kun, and proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The Communists – “The Reds” – came to power largely thanks to being the only group with an organized fighting force, and they promised that Hungary would defend its territory (possibly with the help of the Soviet Red Army). The Communists also promised equality and social justice. Initially, Kun’s regime achieved some impressive military successes: the Hungarian Red Army, under the lead of the genius strategist, Colonel Aurél Stromfeld, ousted Czech troops from the north and planned to march against the Romanian army in the east. In terms of domestic policy, the Communist government nationalized industrial and commercial enterprises, socialized housing, transport, banking, medicine, cultural institutions, and all landholdings of more than 400,000 square metres. Still, the popular support of the Communists proved to be short-lived. In the aftermath of a coup attempt, the government took a series of actions called the Red Terror, murdering several hundred people, which alienated much of the population. The Soviet Red Army was never able to aid the new Hungarian republic. Although it did not lose any battles, the Hungarian Red Army gave up land under pressure from the Entente. In the face of domestic backlash and an advancing Romanian force, Béla Kun and most of his comrades fled to Austria, while Budapest was occupied on August 6. All these events, and in particular the final military defeat, led to a deep feeling of dislike among the general population against the Soviet Union (which had not kept its promise to offer military assistance) and the Jews (since many members of Kun’s government were Jewish, making it easy to blame the Jews for the government’s mistakes). The new fighting force in Hungary were the Conservative counter-revolutionaries – the “Whites”. These, who had been organizing in Vienna and established a counter-government in Szeged, assumed power, led by István Bethlen, a Transylvanian aristocrat, and Miklós Horthy, the former commander-in-chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Starting in Western Hungary and spreading throughout the country, a White Terror began by other half-regular and half-militarist detachments (as the police power crashed, there were no serious national regular forces and authorities), and many Communists and other leftists were executed without trial. Radical Whites launched pogroms against the Jews, displayed as the cause of all the difficulties of Hungary. The leaving Romanian army pillaged the country: livestock, machinery and agricultural products were carried to Romania in hundreds of freight cars.  The estimated property damage of their activity was so much that the international peace conference in 1919 did not require Hungary to pay war redemption to Romania. On November 16, with the consent of Romanian forces, Horthy’s army marched into Budapest. His government gradually restored security, stopped terror, and set up authorities, but thousands of sympathizers of the Károlyi and Kun regimes were imprisoned. Radical political movements were suppressed. In March, the parliament restored the Hungarian monarchy but postponed electing a king until civil disorder had subsided. Instead, Miklos Horthy was elected Regent and was empowered, among other things, to appoint Hungary’s Prime Minister, veto legislation, convene or dissolve the parliament, and command the armed forces.
Hungary’s signing of the Treaty of Trianon on June 4, 1920, ratified the country’s dismemberment. The territorial provisions of the treaty, which ensured continued discord between Hungary and its neighbors, required Hungary to surrender more than two-thirds of its pre-war lands. Nearly one-third of the 10 million ethnic Hungarians found themselves outside the diminished homeland. The country’s ethnic composition was left almost homogeneous, Hungarians constituting about 90% of the population, Germans made up about 6%, and Slovaks, Croats, Romanians, Jews and Gypsies accounted for the remainder. New international borders separated Hungary’s industrial base from its sources of raw materials and its former markets for agricultural and industrial products. Hungary lost 84% of its timber resources, 43% of its arable land, and 83% of its iron ore. Because most of the country’s pre-war industry was concentrated near Budapest, Hungary retained about 51% of its industrial population, 56% of its industry, 82% of its heavy industry, and 70% of its banks. Horthy appointed Count Pál Teleki as Prime Minister in July 1920. His right-wing government issued a numerus clausus law, limiting admission of “political insecure elements” (these were often Jews) to universities and, in order to quiet rural discontent, took initial steps toward fulfilling a promise of major land reform by dividing about 3,850 km² from the largest estates into smallholdings. Teleki’s government resigned, however, after, Charles IV, unsuccessfully attempted to retake Hungary’s throne in March 1921. King Charles’s return produced split parties between conservatives who favored a Habsburg restoration and nationalist right-wing radicals who supported election of a Hungarian king. Count István Bethlen, a non-affiliated right-wing member of the parliament, took advantage of this rift forming a new Party of Unity under his leadership. Horthy then appointed Bethlen prime minister. Charles IV died soon after he failed a second time to reclaim the throne in October 1921. (For more detail on Charles’s attempts to retake the throne, see Charles IV of Hungary’s conflict with Miklós Horthy.)
As prime minister, Bethlen dominated Hungarian politics between 1921 and 1931. He fashioned a political machine by amending the electoral law, providing jobs in the expanding bureaucracy to his supporters, and manipulating elections in rural areas. Bethlen restored order to the country by giving the radical counterrevolutionaries payoffs and government jobs in exchange for ceasing their campaign of terror against Jews and leftists. In 1921, he made a deal with the Social Democrats and trade unions (called Bethlen-Peyer Pact), agreeing, among other things, to legalize their activities and free political prisoners in return for their pledge to refrain from spreading anti-Hungarian propaganda, calling political strikes, and organizing the peasantry. Bethlen brought Hungary into the League of Nations in 1922 and out of international isolation by signing a treaty of friendship with Italy in 1927. The revision of the Treaty of Trianon rose to the top of Hungary’s political agenda and the strategy employed by Bethlen consisted by strengthening the economy and building relations with stronger nations. Revision of the treaty had such a broad backing in Hungary that Bethlen used it, at least in part, to deflect criticism of his economic, social, and political policies. The Great Depression induced a drop in the standard of living and the political mood of the country shifted further toward the right. In 1932 Horthy appointed a new prime-minister, Gyula Gömbös, that changed the course of Hungarian policy towards closer cooperation with Germany and started an effort to magyarize the few remaining ethnic minorities in Hungary. Gömbös signed a trade agreement with Germany that drew Hungary’s economy out of depression but made Hungary dependent on the German economy for both raw materials and markets. Adolf Hitler used promises of returning lost territories, and threats of military intervention and economic pressure to compel Hungarians into supporting Nazi policies, including those related to Jews. Imrédy’s attempts to improve Hungary’s diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom initially made him very unpopular with Germany and Italy. Undoubtedly aware of Germany’s Anschluss with Austria in March, he realized that he could not afford to alienate Germany and Italy on a long-term basis; in the autumn of 1938 his foreign policy became very much pro-German and pro-Italian.  Intent on amassing a base of power in Hungarian right-wing politics, Imrédy began to suppress political rivals, so the increasingly influential Arrow Cross Party was harassed, and eventually banned by Imrédy’s administration. As Imrédy drifted further to the right, he proposed that the government be reorganized along totalitarian lines and drafted a harsher Second Jewish Law. The new government of Pál Teleki approved the Second Jewish Law, which greatly restricted Jewish employment and defined Jews by race instead of religion. This definition altered the status of those who had formerly converted from Judaism to Christianity.
Hungary in World War II (1941-1945)
After being awarded by the Germans and Italians part of southern Chechoslovakia and Subcarpathia in the First Vienna Award of 1938, and then northern Transylvania in the Second Vienna Award of 1940, in 1941 Hungary participated in their first military maneuvers on the side of the Axis. Thus, Hungary was part in the invasion of Yugoslavia, gaining some more territory but effectively joining the Axis powers in the process (showing his non-agreement, prime minister Pál Teleki committed suicide). On 22 June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union using the code name Operation Barbarossa. Hungary joined the German effort and declared war on the Soviet Union on 26 June, and entered World War II on the side of the Axis. In late 1941, the Hungarian troops on the Eastern Front experienced success at the Battle of Uman. By 1943, after the Hungarian Second Army suffered extremely heavy losses at the river Don, the Hungarian government sought to negotiate a surrender with the Allies. On 19 March 1944, as a result of this duplicity, German troops quietly occupied Hungary in what was known as Operation Margarethe. But, by now it was clear that the Hungarians were Germany’s “unwilling satellite”. On 15 October 1944, Horthy made a token effort to disengage Hungary from the war. This time the Germans launched Operation Panzerfaust and Horthy was replaced by a puppet government under the pro-German Prime Minister Ferenc Szálasi. Szálasi and his pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party remained loyal to the Germans until the end of the war. In late 1944, Hungarian troops on the Eastern Front again experienced success at the Battle of Debrecen. But this was followed immediately by the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the Battle of Budapest. During the German occupation in May-June 1944, the Arrow Cross Party and Hungarian police deported nearly 440,000 Jews, mostly to Auschwitz. Over 400,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, as well as tens of thousands of Romani people. Hundreds of Hungarian people were also executed by the Arrow Cross Party for sheltering Jews. The war left Hungary devastated destroying over 60% of the economy and causing huge loss of life. On 13 February 1945, the Hungarian capital city surrendered unconditionally. On 8 May 1945, World War II in Europe officially ended.
Communist era (1947-1989)
Hungarian Revolution of 1956
Following the fall of Nazi Germany, Soviet troops occupied all of the country and through their influence Hungary gradually became a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union. After 1948, Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi established Stalinist rule in the country complete with forced collectivization and planned economy. The rule of the Rákosi government was nearly unbearable for Hungary’s war-torn citizens. This led to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Hungary’s temporary withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. The Soviets retaliated massively with military force, sending in over 150,000 troops and 2,500 tanks. Nearly a quarter of a million people left the country during the brief time that the borders were open in 1956. From the 1960s through the late 1980s, Hungary was often satirically referred to as “the happiest barrack” within the Eastern bloc. This was under the autocratic rule of its controversial communist leader, János Kádár. The last Soviet soldier left the country in 1991 thus ending Soviet military presence in Hungary. With the Soviet Union gone the transition to a market economy began.
Hungarian Republic (1989-)
In June 1987 Károly Grósz took over as premier. In January 1988 all restrictions were lifted on foreign travel. In March demonstrations for democracy and civil rights brought 15,000 onto the streets. In May, after Kádár’s forced retirement, Grósz was named party secretary-general. Under Grósz, Hungary began moving towards full democracy, change accelerated under the impetus of other party reformers such as Imre Pozsgay and Rezső Nyers. Also in June 1988, 30,000 demonstrated against Romania’s plans to demolish Transylvanian villages.
In February, 1989 the Communist Party’s Central Committee, responding to ’public dissatisfaction’, announced it would permit a multi-party system in Hungary and hold free elections. In March, for the first time in decades, the government declared the anniversary of the 1848 Revolution a national holiday. Opposition demonstrations filled the streets of Budapest with more than 75,000 marchers. Grósz met Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, who condoned Hungary’s moves toward a multi-party system and promised that the USSR would not interfere in Hungary’s internal affairs. In May, Hungary began taking down its barbed wire fence along the Austrian border – the first tear in the Iron Curtain. June brought the reburial of Prime Minister Nagy, executed after the 1956 Revolution, drawing a crowd of 250,000 at the Heroes’ Square. The last speaker, 26-year-old Viktor Orbán publicly called for Soviet troops to leave Hungary. In July U.S. President George Bush visited Hungary. In September Foreign Minister Gyula Horn announced that East German refugees in Hungary would not be repatriated but would instead be allowed to go to the West. The resulting exodus shook East Germany and hastened the fall of the Berlin Wall.
At a party congress in October 1989 the Communists agreed to give up their monopoly on power, paving the way for free elections in March 1990. The party’s name was changed from the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party to simply the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) and a new program advocating social democracy and a free-market economy was adopted. This was not enough to shake off the stigma of four decades of autocratic rule, however, and the 1990 election was won by the centrist Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), which advocated a gradual transition towards capitalism. The social-democratic Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), which had called for much faster change, came second and the Socialist Party trailed far behind. As Gorbachev looked on, Hungary changed political systems with scarcely a murmur and the last Soviet troops left Hungary in June 1991.
In coalition with two smaller parties, the MDF provided Hungary with sound government during its hard transition to a full market economy. Antall died in December 1993 and was replaced by Interior Minister Péter Boross.
The economic changes of the past few years have resulted in declining living standards for most people in Hungary. In 1991 most state subsidies were removed, leading to a severe recession exacerbated by the fiscal austerity necessary to reduce inflation and stimulate investment. This made life difficult for many Hungarians, and in the May 1994 elections the Hungarian Socialist Party led by former Communists won an absolute majority in parliament. This in no way implied a return to the past, and party leader Gyula Horn was quick to point out that it was his party that had initiated the whole reform process in the first place (as foreign minister in 1989 Horn played a key role in opening Hungary’s border with Austria). All three main political parties advocate economic liberalization and closer ties with the West. In March 1996, Horn was re-elected as Socialist Party leader and confirmed that he would push ahead with the party’s economic stabilization program.
In 1997 in a national referendum 85% voted in favor of Hungary joining the NATO. A year later the European Union began negotiations with Hungary on full membership. In 1999 Hungary joined NATO. Hungary voted in favor of joining the EU, and joined in 2004.